Last December Screen Rant was part of a small group of outlets selected visit the Albuquerque, New Mexico set of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. At long last we are able to share that experience with you, which includes a slew of interviews with the film’s key players.
Rosa Salazar (Parenthood, Insurgent) joins the Scorch Trials as fan-loved character Brenda, the other young woman who becomes an important part of Thomas’ (Dylan O’Brien) life. We spoke to Salazar after a particularly charged scene that involves the main characters at a very random, potentially dangerous desert house party. The group unknowingly takes hallucinogens, which results in warped perspectives and steamy kisses between Brenda and Thomas and Teresa and Thomas.
The lively, outspoken and charming Salazar talked all about how fun the kiss scene is, along with her delight in being accepted into the Maze Runner group plus a lengthy digression about her arc on TV’s Parenthood and the people who still ask her questions about it.
We’re very excited to have seen this particular scene today and that you and Dylan (O’Brien) have all come and in and been able to kind of, well, we don’t know if you’re going to be joking yet, but the kisses have been fun to talk about. It’s also funny for us to watch over and over again. We’re like, at some point, this has to feel sort of weird. That we’re in their space, watching this. But it looks good!
Yeah, the last take, they were like, “Really go for it!” I was like, “Alright. [laughs] If you want me to!” But yeah, I like the way they did it. It’s not like a rave, like some “Smack My Bitch Up,” you know, techno song. Because I’ve seen that a lot and I’m sure you guys have, too. It’s usually just like, they kiss and it’s hot and there’s really not depth and it’s sort of like fun and like, ooh, adventurous, but this is really – there’s a down tempo song. It’s sexy but at the same time, very sad. And you see these two lonely people. It’s very dark and that’s hot. Dark is hot.
I’m curious about the level of trippy-ness with what this magical mystery drug is. Were you given instructions on how far to go with that?
I thought you were going to say, were you given actual drugs? [laughs] I wasn’t given them! I wish! Wait, what was your question?
Did they give you a level of, “this is how drugged you are”?
Yeah, and it was really easy because all of the extras are around you and they’ve been swaying for two days straight and they all just look really messed up. It’s just easy to get into that rhythm. And the song is really great. The song has this dum, dum, dum. It’s really easy to get with it. And yeah, between takes Wes (Ball) will be like, “More high.” It’s a funny note, and he’s really good at giving notes. The makeup artists just put this red stuff around your eyes, and when you see it on camera, you’re like, I look really f***** up. It’s really easy when you’re in the scene, for me, the moment they yell, “action,” you’re just there. We also did some wire work on this beam that is forty feet above just death. But when you reset, you’re just like, “This is not natural!” The beam is less than a foot wide. But the moment they yell, “action,” you’re just trucking it across the beams and something comes over you and just sort of kicks you in the ass when you’re doing it.
I think Brenda is one of the most interesting characters and I’m only about a third of the way into the last book, so I don’t know exactly what happens, but tell us what is cool about her in this film.
Well, first of all, she kicks ass, and she’s no bulls***. That scene is so close to the book that it’s fun. She’s like, forward and goes in to kiss him and he’s like, “No, I don’t understand.” That’s her. She’s like, “Leap now. Just go.” I sort of like to describe her as a rescue dog. She was thrust out into this terrible world, the Scorch, and fending for herself at a very young age. Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) finds her and takes her under his wing, and she becomes a protege. But she’s very armored. She’s very, “You’re not getting in here.” There are no chinks in her armor. She’s impenetrable. Throughout that course of the movie, stuff is getting pulled out of her. She’s like, “I’m vulnerable now. What does this mean?” She breaks her own rules with this character Thomas (O’Brien) and lets him in in this really beautiful way and is sort of messed up by it, because she’s so used to doing this, so to do this is very awkward. It’s nice to see that. I, myself, am very like that. I had a storied past and have been on my own since I was fifteen. I know what she’s doing. I know her tricks. You’ve spent so long white-knuckling it through the world, and now when you’re in a position of someone is in front of you asking you to trust them, you have to learn to do it. It’s not inherent. In fact, there is years of battling that on top of it. I like that she’s coming out of her shell. That sounds so stupid, but it’s true. She’s just sort of taking off the armor.
How about how she’s affected by The Flare. Do we see how that’s messed with her mind?
Yeah, I get messed up. [laughs] It starts to happen after the party and you know, then Brenda and Thomas are in a really weird spot, which is also like the book. It’s just all downhill from there. It sort of takes over her very quickly from then on.
And is it part of the reason this role intrigued you? Because of the parallels to your personal life?
Absolutely. 100%. Also, I met Dylan the night before I tested. I had just done a franchise movie. I’m very act-or. I was like, I don’t know. Two franchises is kind of weird, and I thought my next piece would be a think-y indie. A lot of sitting and talking. They said, just meet Dylan. So I met Dylan over drinks and I was like, oh my god, this guy is amazing. He’s so full of energy and is hilarious and cares about this franchise from the bottom of his heart. I fell in love with the idea of Wes – he had a binder full of drawings that he drew for this movie. Just inspiration for the movie. That was part of it. Then I tested for the movie and immediately went to the Arclight movie theaters and saw the movie and I was like, holy s***. This is an amazing sci-fi movie. Then I read the books and it all kind of snowballed from there. When you meet Brenda, it’s like, bam! That’s her. She’s sort of in your face. With every page, I was like, I’ve been her. I’ve been that, I can overcome this. I’ve been hard. I’ve been hard before. That sounds sexual. [laughs]
The rest of them, because they did the first movie together, and they hang out and play Mario Kart together. What was it like coming into that.
I hate it. They’re the worst. Burn their house down! [laughs]
How quickly were you able to integrate yourself into that?
Right off the bat. I mean, you’ve met them. You’ve seen them in action. I’m very much like Brenda. I am not a clique-y person. I don’t like the five person group dynamic. I just never have. It doesn’t make sense to me that six people would just sit in a circle and say, “Now I want approval,” “Now I want approval,” “Now I want approval.” “I have something funny to say,” “No, I have something funny to say, me!” It’s hard to make plans. So, I’ve never been a pack [person]. In my entire life, I have ten people that are the closest people to me. They’re my family, and I really don’t mesh worlds that often. I’m sort of a hermit.
I can hang out with these guys all night, and I do, every night! And we play Mario Kart, and even though I’m god awful at it, I have the most fun and I feel safe talking about things – if there’s ever any weirdness that I feel like bringing up, because I’m so sensitive, like Brenda, I can immediately be like, “What was that?” And they’ll be like, “No, no! It was this!” You never know, because they are a tightknit group. And you just be thrust into that, and not have any history from the first movie, none of those experiences, none of those long talks, it can be hard. But if you have these people, who are so genuine and sweet and f****** talented, it just happened. They are so organic, and they’re so sweet, they’re some of my best friends for life.
Kaya (Scodelario) said you are all really good cooks. I’m impressed!
It’s tough! You can’t eat McDonald’s every night! You can eat Chipotle every night. I’ve proven that to be true. Every once in a while someone will be like, “I guess we should make something.” And it will be this amazing meal! And you’re just like, “Oh my God! You really know how to make a salad!” I made stuffed shells one night. It came out really great, even though we were using to really tiny ovens to do it. I had to do two batches at once. They came out really great. It’s all because Dylan like, the place that we’re staying, they have a dinner. They cooked stuffed shells one night and Dylan was like, really really excited. All he could talk about all day was stuffed shells, stuffed shells, stuffed shells! “I can’t wait to get stuffed shells!” We went back and he was like, “These are the worst stuffed shells I’ve ever had. In my life.” So I went out the next night to get groceries and made him stuffed shells. He was just like, “Oh my God,” the whole time. “These are so good! Thank you!”
Are you ready for one heck of a year next year?
Oh my gosh! It’s so funny because I’ve just been stockpiling projects and let’s say I go out with Dylan. People are like, “oh my God, you’re from Teen Wolf, and, I love Maze Runner and Internship, and, who are you?” And I’m like, “I’m Rosa Salazar and I have a lot of things coming out next year.” And next year will come around and they’ll be like, “oh.” So it’s going to be like five movies, or something crazy like that. That’s how it worked out. And one of them, Search Party, took forever to edit, and it will come out next year, which is so ironic. Everything is just stepped up next year. I’m sort of getting my press cherry popped.
Jessica Chastain did a similar thing.
Did you read the book?
Yeah, I did.
Was there a scene that you’re especially proud of, seeing realized in the film?
The one we’re shooting now. I mean, it’s like I said. Fans will be really happy because this kiss happens. But you’ll be really happy because it happens in such an amazing way. Like I said, it’s not some cheap, teen romance drama. Like, she was neat, now she’s hot. It’s not like that. It just happened so strangely, And the lights, and all the people, and it feels like slow-motion, but it’s not slow motion. Just has this rhythm to it that I always imagined that way. I never imagined it to be like, “Get over here. Give me a big smooch.” But it could’ve been done like that. A lot of teen stuff is done like that. Like, kiss, walk away. I was really afraid of it being Dawson’s Creek-y. Until I met Wes. And Wes has every single moment realized in his own head. And he’s drawing it out. And he’s written about it, and he’s there, and he has his vision. I was so happy to see it come to life, because I was a fan of the book when I read it. And that scene is so squirrley and interesting, and I couldn’t wait to be in it. On the day it came around I was like, yes. And then I get to make out with Dylan so it was really easy.
And a little awkward. Kaya came in and it seemed like she was still getting over it.
I’m okay, guys. I’ve kissed many frogs. But never the star of Teen Wolf! It’s fun, I like it.
How is it, going from Insurgent to this? Because that feels like, that seems more like the typical YA-to-film adaptation that people are kind of clamoring for now. And this is that, to an extent. But it’s so different at the same time.
It is different. Not to say anything about Insurgent, because I’m smarter than that – you’ve already seen it. You don’t get me! I’m a lesbian. Oh god. [laughs] it was very, very, different for many, many, reasons. Number one, way bigger role. Way more demanding. So, I had a really really tiny honey wagon on Insurgent that I would spend up to 10 hours in a day, almost. You can barely turn around and nothing. And then I’m on this movie, and I’m in most scenes, and I have this luxurious trailer, and I’m never in there. That’s just one little tidbit. But it’s just, The people on this movie from the PAs to Wes, and all of the producers and executive producers and even just PAs, everyone is great. Everyone is collaborative. It’s just very rare that everything runs so smoothly. And I can tell you that from experience. It’s just different, and it feels great to be safe, almost. I’m never worried about anything on this movie. Not one thing, ever. I mean, when I do it take, I know Wes is right there, that he’s really watching, he catches things that no one else can see. We were doing this shoot ’em up scene and there’s this squib that just didn’t go off and it kind of fell off in a bag, and you could see it as plain as day if you’re Wes.
And I was watching and I was like, “What are you talking about?” And then he points out just this little speck. And I’m like, “Oh my God! How did you even see that?” He just has everything under control. And he’s really good at talking to actors. For instance, doctors have to take bedside manner courses before they can become a doctor. They have to learn how to have a bedside manner, which very crucial. Directors, I don’t know if they do that, you know? It just seems like Wes has this intuitive way of getting an idea across to an individual person and knows how that individual person will receive it. So that’s one huge, big deal. In terms of the YA to YA thing, they’re very very different. Insurgent is very classic YA. It’s very much sort of catering to the fans, which is great for their franchise, because The fans are, as you know, intense!
So that’s one thing. This, sort of caters to those moments that really really matter, and it has a heart, And has these really interesting exchanges and glances and nuanced moments that make it this film. It’s not a blockbuster YA, which is sort of it’s own thing and fun to be a part of. But it’s also a film and can stand on its own. That’s what I said about the first Maze Runner. It can stand on its own as a sci-fi film. A really really great sci-fi film. Do you have all of these best friends that you just me, especially for somebody like me who is not very, let’s hang out at Central Perk – We all have our little things. You’re Chandler. That’s not me come at all. And have that happen, so organically, it just makes the experience. You know? When you’re not dodging someone.
I’ve seen them embrace people really quickly. Was it more like you had to say, all right…
It was. It was me saying, do you like me? Do I like you too? And I definitely bought a lot of stuff. I was like, I got beer! [laughs] It was like, learning to become that person. Because I never did that in elementary school, middle school, high school. I always had a very different story from everyone else. So I could never really get in there. I was always like, I don’t know. So I was this intimidating girl from drama class. But this was so much like – there’s always this period of, who is this person? And you’re sort of testing each other out. But, it was very short. It was very quick. I was immediately like, let’s get hammered! Let’s have this experience together. Let’s go out, and get silly. It feels like a sleepover. Every single night. You know? It really does.
I have an unrelated question that I really want to ask. I’m a big Parenthood fan. You had such an important and heartbreaking role on that show. I literally just got a text from my friend who was like, Julia didn’t get the baby! She was like, I’m sobbing! She sent me a picture of her tears.
That’s Parenthood for you. I watch the show. I’m like, Zeke!
We are really worried about him! But do you still get fans coming up to you or tweeting – I don’t know if you tweet – saying, “Oh my god. I can’t believe you didn’t give Julia the baby!”
I do tweet! Oh my God, I have the best story! That I’m not going to tell. Goodbye. This is why I didn’t have friends.[laughs] The fans range from all ages, ethnicities, genders. There’s never a type that comes up to me. Dylan has a lot of girls coming up to him, which is crazy. But it’s all kinds of people. I never know who’s coming for me. Let’s make this a defensive thing! So I’m at the airport one time and I have the worst seat. It’s like E 44 or some s***. I used to do the schick when I had really bad seats. I would go up and say I have panic attacks if I’m in the back of the plane. And the lady was like, you’re kidding, right! And I was like, what do you mean? She was like, you’re an actor. I was like, oh my God. Oh, okay. Never mind. But she was like never mind. I’ll give you a better seat. That was a crappy seat.
So I get in the plane and I’m in my seat, and I was like, yeah, I did that. So I’m sitting there, And we’re about to take off, and there’s the stewardess, this big, sassy black lady. She’s walking down saying check your seatbelts, check your seatbelts. Turn your phone off. And I’m on my phone and I don’t have my seatbelt on, and she looks at me, and does a double take, and she’s like, “You know why I’m mad at you, right?” And I was like, uh … And I grew up in DC, so i’m familiar with big black women yelling at me. [laughs] I was the only white girl, and Latino girl, in the class. I was the white sheep. So I was like, “Oh God! My childhood!” So I’m putting my seatbelt on and I’m turning my phone off, and she’s like, “No! I’m mad at you because you ain’t give Julia your baby!” I was like, oh my God. And she smiled at me, and she was like, “Hmm.” And she walked away, and my heart was beating out of my chest. Everyone on the plane was looking at me. I thought she was talking about my schtick, trying to get a better seat on the plane. But no, she wasn’t. She was talking about Parenthood. It was a double whammy.
It totally blindsided me. I was like “I’m sorry! Don’t hit me!” And on the flight back, they had all these TVs. Parenthood was playing, and I also had a Verizon commercial where I’m on the phone and hit a button and go, “Ooh.” And all the lights come on, and I’m like, “Wow.” And the woman from across the aisle is like, “Hey! Is this you?” And I was like, “Yeah.” Then Parenthood comes on and she was like, “Is that you?” And I was like “Yeah. I’m very famous.” [laughs] Two things you got back to back. But no, a lot of people come up to me and they give me their life story. I was in Goodwill one time and this woman comes up to me and she was like, “Oh my God. I tried to adopt a baby.” She just start talking and I was like, do I know you? “I tried, and it didn’t happen. So when I saw that arc, it really meant a lot to me.” I have these big, hunky dudes come up to me and say, “Me and my wife love Parenthood. Your season is the best season.” Erika Christensen, who is one of my best friends – I spend Thanksgiving with her every single year – her fiancé Cole (Maness) will text me at the beginning of every single season saying, “I wrote a script. I wrote a spec script for Jason Katims, where you come back, and you bumped into her at a 7-Eleven or something, And you have your baby, and you’re a great mom.”
Is that going to happen?
It’s not going to happen. It’s the last season. I used to say it was going to happen because I was like, ooh, I hope. This experience, and the Parenthood experience rival for best experience ever. Parenthood was one of my very first things. It was actually, technically, the very second thing I got. After being a costar on Law & Order LA. A show that is no longer running.
Everyone has to be on it at least once.
My friend Gina (Rodriguez) has been on a bunch of times, and now she’s Jane the Virgin. She is one of the most phenomenal people I’ve ever met in my life. She used to curl my hair and read my sides before auditions, because I was I was such a tomboy. I was like, I don’t know what to do with my hair. And she was like, ” Girl, come over here.” And she would curl my hair, and she would be reading sides with me and send me out. She is a phenomenal person. Anyway, Parenthood, best experience. You walk onto the lot, 15 minutes from your door. First of all, you’re on the lot which is so special when you’re a young actress. It’s like, wow. Oh my God! There’s Howard Stern! The Voice! It’s crazy! And I was really nervous because I haven’t had a bad experience or a good experience yet. I was like, what’s it going to be like? Is Erika going to be a diva? Is the director going to hate me? You also have these fantastical ideas like I’m going to be great! I’m going to be amazing, which is also outlandish. They’re both outlandish, and you flip-flop between both things.
So I’m waiting in my trailer to go into hair and make up, And I walk in, and I see Erika, and she’s all the way scooched down in her make up chair with her feet up on the thing. The ladies are all talking to her, and they move to the side to reveal Erika with a huge scratch down the side of her leg which she got in a bicycle accident. On gravel. She wasn’t hit by a car or anything. She’s so badass. And she’s got this huge thing, all the way up and she sitting, eating a plate with a mountain of food on it. I don’t even know what food it was. It could have been post apocalyptic slop or something, Huge mountain of food. And she sees me, and she’s like, “Hey Rosa! What’s up?” Eggs just fly out of her mouth. She starts laughing and she’s like, “Come in, man!” And that’s her! Now that she’s a gross person, But she’s one of the nicest smartest people I’ve ever known, as well. As you can tell, I’ve had very very charmed experiences meeting all of these fantastic women.
Being able to work with Julia. That’s why it’s so good! I can’t cut it myself, because it’s one of the first things I’ve ever done. I’m not a television actor. I wasn’t even an actor yet. I had no idea what it would look like. When I saw the first episode, I thought, this could be terrible or this could be great. I have no idea. The barometer is off. It works because Erika is so genuine. She looks you in the eye, and there’s no ego. He’ll give you tips, which I was gobbling up. It’s easy. It’s just so easy. And that’s the way it is here. Dylan has no ego whatsoever. Easy to be in the scene with him. He could easily be a dick. All of the screaming fans and people client you for attention and all of these amazing projects he’s done, he could easily be an a******. But he could not be further from that. He’s just so incredible and generous. They both are. You sort of need that in someone who’s leading the way. That’s why they rival – they are very special experiences. Also, I’m getting paid a s*** ton! [laughs] I’m not! I guarantee it!
You will! You’re on your way!
Can you give me a check? [laughs]
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opens on September 18, 2015.